The Wild West of Lima - part 1

By Johnny Parsons

Location: Puente Santa Anita, Lima, Peru.

Friday, 6:40am on an already sweltering summer morning.

“Documentos, documentos” barked the giant Policeman.Armed for Guerilla Warfare & with no evident sense of humour, this was not a chap that one would wish to upset!

I’d left the house early, I’d got to the bus stop on time, the traffic was the usual unpredictable chaos, so now I was teetering on the edge of being late.I filed down the slow moving line of people, head down, hoping that I wouldn’t get picked out in this random ID check (it would be a random ID check in my case too!) Head down & hoping that despite being at least a foot taller than the average Peruvian, I wouldn’t stand out too much & the Policia would let me slip past. No such luck!

The problem was that I’d (foolishly/naively) didn’t have any ID.All I had was my UK Driving License & my BFH.
Sadly corruption is present (rife) in the law & although there may have been a chance that I could have “bought” my way out of this tricky situation, with only 50 Centavos in my pocket (10p in old money), it wasn’t a pantomime that I was thinking of entering.Carrying ID is mandatory & I wasn’t carrying any.
“Documentos, documentos” he shouted at me.
I presented my driving license.
This angered him somewhat “What is THIS”
I made up an excuse that my ID had been stolen, just the night before.
Lying has never been a forte of mine & with the sun rising, my nose growing & sweating like a proverbial pig. I was under pressure.
“What are you doing here?”
With no ID on me, legally I shouldn’t have been working, so I lied again “Tourism” I said, with my intonation in all the wrong places, sounding like I was asking a question.
“Tourism? Here?” Santa Anita was not a place where tourists go, as there is nothing touristic to see. A long way from the leafy cosmopolitan parks & avenues of Miraflores & a zillion miles from Machu Picchu, or on the moon.
In fact if I’d said I was an astronaut on my way to the moon it may have been more believable!
Why would a tourist be wearing a shirt & tie, carrying a briefcase full of text books here? (He’d already checked my bag & sky rockets).
Lady luck was shining down on me, as just then a scuffle broke out. Somebody else had forgotten their ID, but they weren’t taking too kindly to the fact that they were being delayed to work. My Policeman gave me the hard word “Never, EVER forget your ID again” & he went off to assist his colleague (to rough up a punter!)
I ran the remaining 6 blocks to work & spent my class daydreaming about “Operation Escape from Lima!”

(At this point I should explain that both my wife & mother-in-law are both called Lina, so if I mistype Lima as Lina at any point, and if my eyes/spell-check does not pick up on it, it is purely unintentional & not a Freudian slip!)

I’d been back in Lima for 3 months; the city had changed since I last lived here 10 years ago.Bigger, badder, busier & booming!
Whilst most of the World is in a recession, Peru had been steadily growing over the last 5 years & as a result, credit is more freely available. Which means more cars & more Taxistas! Taxis make up around half of the traffic on the roads, creating a snarled-up vicious circle.More traffic=more time to get anywhere=more people taking a taxi=more traffic!

Another Clunk in my quest to find the ultimate Lima adventure machine.

All of my life I’ve wanted a dirtbike.I grew up on programmes like “Kick-start”, Graham Noyce & Evil Knievel were my heroes & one of the big lads at school used to do wheelies on his trials bike down the High Street for 100yds.

At the age of 42, I finally achieved my dream.

I spent 4 frantic weeks looking at various bikes.My documentos were still being processed so I had to obtain a special “Permiso para firmar contratos” in order to buy a bike, it lasted 4 weeks.Pushed for time I settled on a cracking little Honda XR125. Not a bike that would set the World on fire, but good enough for my dreams & purposes.

I had to learn how to ride “Lima style” quickly; it was a baptism of fire, but after sussing the three stages (fear-fury-follow the free for all!) I became more comfortable & used to head off very, very early on a Sunday morning, to find local trails. I’m struggling to find a decent map (OS, how I miss you!) So a lot of my riding is into the unknown, experimental & generally I am lost!

Looking towards La Molina & La Agraria

Lima is a big city, on the coast, in a desert, flanked by big dusty mountains.
A dirtbike is a natural choice for the pot-holed roads & infinite number of speed-bumps, with just enough power (a whopping 11bhp) to keep out of trouble, whilst being slim/agile enough to squeeze/wrestle through the limping chaos that is the traffic. At times it moves, other times it stops, the rest of the time it lurches, unpredictably. Near-misses are a daily occurrence & I do tend to kiss the ground whenever I get home.
I’m confident in the traffic, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t scare me.
I am no Dakar rider; I just like to be out in the wilds on my bike.

I was heading inland up the Carretera Central one Sunday, struggling to get past labouring trucks, on a tight & twisty road. It was hot, I was flustered, so I stopped for a breather & noticed a feint & thin, twisty trail heading up into the hills.
As soon as I got back home I looked on Google maps & saw that the thin line snaked its way up into the hills & could make an entertaining (albeit contrived) loop. The plan was hatched! I just needed 2 days off work... Read on.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published